Biden and major allies are meeting about Russia's war in Ukraine
Updated March 24, 2022 at 10:59 AM ET
President Biden met with NATO and G-7 allies on Thursday in a emergency sessions about Russia's brutal war against Ukraine as the conflict reached the one-month mark.
The 30-member NATO alliance gathered at its Brussels headquarters to talk about plans to bolster troop rotations in countries along the southern portion of its eastern flank — and contingency plans in case Russian aggression intensifies.
"We are determined to continue to impose costs on Russia to bring about the end of this brutal war," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said as the meeting began, paying tribute to "the great courage of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian armed forces fighting for their freedom and their rights."
NATO allies have stayed remarkably united thus far in their response to Russia's invasion of its neighbor. Biden's mission ahead of the meeting was "to ensure we stay united, to cement our collective resolve, to send a powerful message that we are prepared and committed to this for as long as it takes," his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said.
Biden opens door to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees
More than 3.5 million Ukrainians have fled the fighting in their country. American officials believe most will want to stay in Europe so they can return to Ukraine when it's safe. But the United States will welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and other displaced people fleeing the conflict, a senior administration official said.
The news was welcomed by a major refugee resettlement organization. Krish O'Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration Refugee Services, called it "a concrete display of global humanitarian leadership." But she had questions about how it will happen. "Will the administration surge staff and resources to address backlogs that have plagued our immigration system for years? Will it use humanitarian parole authority to move Ukrainians to safety quicker? And if so, to what extent?" she told NPR.
Biden is also announcing $1 billion in new funding for humanitarian aid for Ukrainians and refugees in neighboring countries.
Other U.S. humanitarian announcements today include:
On Friday, Biden will travel to Warsaw and meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda. In Poland, he will visit U.S. troops stationed there, and talk to humanitarian experts, the White House has said.
The West plans to crack down on sales of Russian gold
The U.S. and other major economies have frozen reserves held by Russia's central bank. But they're worried about potential sales of gold reserves to prop up the value of Russia's currency. Russia's central bank had about 20% of its reserves in gold ahead of its invasion of Ukraine, the official said.
So on Thursday, the G-7 countries and the European Union explicitly blocked these sales.
The United States also announced new sanctions on more than 300 members of the Russian Duma, more than 40 Russian defense companies, and on a handful of Russian elites. Some of these sanctions are aligning the U.S. with moves already taken by its allies.
Zelenskyy asked for more military equipment
Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy spoke to NATO leaders via video from Ukraine at the beginning of their meeting, and later spoke to a separate meeting of the G-7.
At NATO, Zelenskky repeated requests for continued and increased security assistance from the West — but did not ask for a no-fly zone or NATO membership during his remarks, an official told reporters.
Several NATO members made pledges of support to increase their security assistance for Ukraine in the early part of the meeting, the official said.
Biden has begun consultations with allies on supplying anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, the official said — a move that would come with "technical challenges" but the United States and allies are trying to work those out.
NATO is bolstering forces, and planning in case Russia uses chemical weapons
Allies closest to Russia — including Romania and the three Baltic states — have pressed NATO and the United States to boost troops in their countries. Some of the biggest decisions on this will come at a planned meeting in Madrid in June.
On Thursday, there was some discussion about the need for NATO to be ready to deal with the potential use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by Russia, an official told reporters. The United States is already taking steps to enhance its readiness and ability to respond to any such incidents, and to work with NATO and a task force it has to deal with these kinds of attacks.
Other allies are also making efforts to help Ukraine be able to identify and respond to this type of threat, the official said.
There's a lot of symbolism in this moment
As leaders gathered for the traditional group photograph, Biden was seen speaking with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas.
Seeing Western leaders standing side-by-side will send a powerful message to Europeans alarmed at Russia's attack on Ukraine — and a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the strength of the NATO alliance, said Jim Townsend, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy.
"That family photo is going to show everyone that these guys are unified," said Townsend, now at the Center for a New American Security think-tank. "That family photo is one of the most important deliverables coming out of the meeting at NATO."
NPR's Franco Ordoñez contributed to this report.
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